Category: Women’s Issues

Still Together after Thirty Years

Mr. Hughson and I have reached another marital landmark. We recently celebrated thirty years of marriage.

“We’ve been together since way back when.” We actually met in 1982 and became friends in 1983. We started dating in 1985 and spoke our marriage vows in 1988.

I still recall the day. It seems more like fifteen years ago. Time warps the older I get.

He is “Still the One”:

  • I want to talk to in bed
  • Who turns my head
  • Makes me smile
  • I dream about
  • That makes me laugh
  • That’s my better half
  • Still having fun…and “he’s” still the one

Did you enjoy the flashback to the 70s? They don’t write songs like they used to do it. Thus, those 80s retro hits are becoming fodder for the ears of teenagers everywhere.

But I digress…

For our anniversary, we stayed at the Hilton in Anaheim (where he attended some Geek Man conference all week) and toured the local attractions. I was all about visiting Harry Potter World, but Disney offers a fair share of entertainment,too.

My big plan was new rings.

If you recall, I got a new ring in the Caribbean two years ago. But the mister has been wearing the same band for…you guessed it…thirty years.

I wanted him to get something new. Preferably something with blue diamonds so it “matched” mine.

What do you think?

Those are Kentucky blue sapphires folks.
My Caribbean Blue diamond ring. Close enough for government work?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I also wanted him to buy me a second wedding band so the solitaire would be hugged by the blue and white diamond sparkle. You’d think getting something from a company called Diamonds International would be a simple thing.

Or not. I’ll let you know how that turns out. If it turns out. There was a lot of email tag and some phone tag.

Ring or no ring. Anniversary trip or home bound. In the end, I’m happy to be stuck with this guy for the rest of my life.

Happy anniversary, Handsome.

What would you plan for a landmark anniversary?

Making a Habit of Happiness

Recently, I was stuck on my latest fiction-in-progress so I was surfing the Internet and Facebook. I found this meme created by Do the Right Thing that extolled thirty habits for happiness.


I read through the list and some of the comments on the post. One person said it was too long to read through, and I thought that was a shame.
Then I decided to make my own, much shorter list.

But how do I know what should go on the list?

And who am I to say I know anything about happiness?

What is Happiness Anyway

Oh, happiness how fleeting! Here for one heart’s beating!

According to my wise friends at Dictionary.com, happiness is the quality or state of being delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing.
In short: happiness is a moment in time where something goes right and you feel a surge of success.
It’s a moment in time. It’s not meant to be a continual state of being. However, if you’re going to choose an emotion to characterize your life, wouldn’t happiness be preferable to sadness or anger?

But when the property tax bill comes and it’s a couple hundred dollars more than the previous year, no one is very pleased. (Well, Mr. Tax Man probably is.)

However, practice #2 from my top ten list below and you’ll start thinking, “Plenty of people didn’t get a tax bill because they don’t own a home. I’m blessed to have such a nice house. I’ve worked in the schools and I know education is important. I’m glad that if there’s a fire, the fire department will come and take care of it. If not for my taxes, those things wouldn’t be possible.”

I might not be happy about the bill even after all that, but now I’m feeling less disgruntled.

So while I doubt anyone will be happy all the time, having a positive outlook and practicing gratitude can alter your “state of being” from irritated and grumbling to accepting and smiling.

Narrowing Down the Choices

To narrow down this list of thirty, I did what most people in this social media dominated culture of ours do: I asked my Facebook community.

How did we cull answers from a larger population before there was Facebook and Instagram and all the others?
Most kids can’t imagine not being able to search the Internet for answers to any question. Somehow, those of us born before 1980 managed it. Go figure.

Within the first twelve hours of posting my Facebook poll, I had two clear leaders among the thirty options. And a five-way tie for third place. No surprise.

This list contains thirty good habits to form for better mental health. Because in reality, that’s what happiness brings. It can also lower blood pressure and drop adrenal levels associated with stress.

Of course, no research is “one and done.” I ended up with a four-way tie for third place. So I made this meme and let my friends help me narrow the choices down a second time.


I have an amazing tribe. Although this second request didn’t gender the same flurry of interest, enough people responded that I could determine a clear third, fourth and fifth place.
In the end, my peeps helped me build this “Top 5” list (for those of you who like it short and sweet):


My Top 10 Habits for Happiness

Of course, my personal list doesn’t coincide with the masses of public opinion. It rarely does. I’m unique that way.

Here’s how I would prioritize the habits for happiness. The first two directly coincide with recent annual themes for me. I focused attention on the area of showing gratitude (remember #365DaysofGratitude) and thinking positively.

1. Show gratitude
2. Accentuate the positive
3. Smile. Smile. Smile
4. Choose faith over fear (As one person pointed out, meditating on scripture and prayer should be on the list. I think they’re incorporated here. How can I have faith without them?)
5. Let go of the baggage (Don’t hold grudges. Don’t rehearse wrongs. Don’t look for fault everywhere. Sing with Elsa, “Let it Go.”)
6. Live truthfully and honestly (yes, I combined two because they are twins)
7. Dream big and work hard for the dream (dreaming big alone is the path to disappointment and discouragement, but if you dream it and planto achieve it and then work your plan…good times!)
8. Build a healthy body (yes, I’m a cheater because eating well, exercising, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep go here)
9. Listen to understand
10. No excuses or self-justification. Own it.

I’m a writer, so a few things about the original list bugged me. Some of the points meant the same thing. Or close enough. Others were tied together–inseparable to my way of thinking.

What is your top habit for happiness? If you do this ONE THING, you will have a better day.

5 Things I’ve Learned About Change

One quarter of 2018 is past. It’s supposed to be a year of metamorphosis around here, but what has really changed? If nothing else, I’ve learned a few things about the process of making changes.

In January, I posted my word for the year. I made a lovely graphic.

And then a few weeks later, I adopted a new branding design. Which included a lovely new logo.

Things were off to a metamorphic start. Oh yes.

I penned blogs about what was changing: career,website and me. And maybe a few people even read them.

But when change happens to someone else, it doesn’t affect us. I mean, really. Other people move or find a new job or send a kid to college. We might feel for them (especially if we’ve experienced these changes before), but there’s no metamorphosis in our life when that happens.

1. Change Takes Purpose

Let me explain this. Things change in our lives without our PERMISSION. That’s a circumstance.

In order for us to truly “become something better” there has be be purposeful change.

For example, we get laid off. That was a job we loved and felt called to do. Now we hit the streets to find a new job. After a few dozen applications and some not-so-fruitful interviews, we are offered a new position and we accept it.

However, the new job might end up being only a circumstance. If we don’t embrace this new place and employ our gifts toward this different mission, we won’t change.

WE won’t change.

Just because circumstances change, it doesn’t follow that we will change.

So when life throws you a new circumstance, be a good Marine. Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. And most of all, set your mind to making the most of it so you become a better person.

2. Some Change is Excruciating

I have no idea what the caterpillar feels inside a cocoon. I’ve always imagined the little guy spun his secure bed, fell asleep and woke up as a butterfly.

We aren’t caterpillars. If we sleep through a change, nothing will happen.

My experience this past year is that the longer I’ve been in one place, the more difficult it is to change. More than that, it’s often an unpleasant experience.

Think of it this way, your car is stuck in the mud. You rev the motor. Wheels spin. You sink further into the mud. The more you struggle to get out of the rut, the deeper you get into it.

So it is with changing something that has been static for many, many years.

In order to pull ourselves out of the rut, there’s going to be external force needed. And then there will be internal struggles to accept that application of brutality.

Metamorphosis in the human arena is agonizing.

3. Change Can Be Small

We want big and flashy. This is most often true in areas where we’re making physical changes.

We start a diet and exercise plan. Three days later, our muscles scream and our stomach rumbles. We step on the scale and see:

We’ve lost one pound

One pound?!? For all this misery? Why am I doing this again?

Because big changes start small. Think of the avalanche. It can start with a single pebble sliding down the slope. It hits a larger boulder which rumbles. Dirt loosens around it. When it goes, it takes trees and more rocks with it, leaving behind a corridor of destruction.

The thing about a small change might not even be that it becomes bigger. Often it remains a small, simple thing: filling out a gratitude journal every evening before falling asleep.

But that ONE LITTLE THING bleeds into every area of life. It might begin as, “I have to pay attention to what I’m grateful for so I have something to write in the journal.” Soon enough it becomes a habit to give thanks for all the little things.

The rain stopped when I walked out to get the mail. The cat didn’t run away when I needed to load him into the carrier (and I’m not wearing scratch marks in the aftermath).

The truth is:

4. Real Change is S-L-O-W

Weight loss is another one of those things we want to happen now. Nope, actually, yesterday.

How long did it take me to pack on that extra fifteen pounds? A year? Two years? And yet I think I should be able to drop it in a couple months.

What I’ve discovered is that when I try to be diligent about eating a low calorie diet and exercise every day until my muscles STOP aching, I get burned out. My limit for persevering in both of these things is about one month.

One month? Can I even lose FIVE pounds in that time?

But when I think about it like that, it discourages me. So instead, I look at things as progressive. My sister the Beachbody coach has lots of motivational memes, and they make me feel like a failure if I let them.

Instead, I pull out my calendar and see all the times I know it will be difficult to stick to low calorie eating. I make sure I can up the intensity of my workouts during that time, but I don’t plan to follow the restrictive eating plan.

Why set myself up for failure? Instead, I shoot for MAINTAINING the strides I’ve already made.

After the week of vacation, I return to another 21-day focused eating and exercise plan. At the end, I give myself a week or a weekend to relax in the kitchen.

No, I don’t eat everything in sight. Usually, I’ll reward myself with pizza (and I don’t eat the whole thing) or baked goods (that I give away or share so I don’t eat them all). Then my head is in the right spot to do another 21 to 30-day focused weight loss plan.

It could take me six months or ten months to lose those fifteen pounds, but that’s still LESS time than it took to gain them.

5. Change isn’t always Better

Sadly, change isn’t always the best course of action. It’s difficult to admit this in a post extolling the virtues of metamorphosis.

I’m not talking about YOU attempting to improve something and it falls apart. That’s failure. And failing is the key to success.

Sometimes we were OKAY in an area of life we decided needed to change. Maybe we’ve decided to double the number of books we read in a year. Reading is great, right?

But if we forfeit family time, sleep and preparing nutritious meals (because we’re reading!) then we’ve missed the point of making a change.

Sometimes, we are healthy even if we aren’t a size six anymore. This doesn’t mean we should indulge in a daily dose of ice cream or cookies. Let’s not become UNHEALTHY. But we don’t have to strictly count every calorie. If we miss a workout, there’s no need for self-flagellation.

If reading self-help books makes me adopt a negative self-image, this isn’t a change for the better. We must weigh the change from every angle.

The world is filled with excellent things that I’ve never tried. And if I tried them they could hurt me or deter me from the best course for my life.

So it’s important to remember that a change doesn’t have to be permanent. If you make a change and discover it’s actually detrimental to your life purpose or mental or emotional health, you can change back. Or better yet, re-evaluate WHY you wanted to change that and see if there’s another way to achieve the end result you desire.

What have you learned about change? Have you experienced any of these five lessons about change first-hand?

Same Friend, Different Weekend

Some things are worth a 500-mile drive in a weekend (and I’m not a fan of road trips). In this case, it was the same friend for another weekend.

My best friend from high school had to drive a similar distance and it didn’t make her bat an eyelash. She’s one of those people who loves to drive, and I’m happy to let her when we’re together.

A couple years ago, we went to Richland, Washington. That year, we had another high school friend with us. I blogged about it here.

We’ve since been to Seattle and Leavenworth.

I’m sensing a theme here: the state of Washington. As it happens, Washington is “middle ground” for us. She lives in Idaho and I’m in Oregon. Check your map and you’ll see what I mean by “middle ground.”

Why Her?

Unbreakable bonds are forged on cinder tracks. Okay, that didn’t sound as prophetic and epic as I hoped. It’s safe to say, Laurel and I became friends after a hurdle tried to take me out at the knees.

For many years, we were inseparable. But people grow up. At times, I feared we might be growing apart, but that’s not what happened at all.

Each time we saw each other, time fell away and we took up right where we left off. Except we were older and wiser (more gray-haired and wrinkled anyway).

When she went through an ugly divorce (yes, there are other kinds, but ugly seems to be the norm), I was a concerned yet distant ear. Most of the communiques came through email, but the weekend the divorce became final, we started our tradition.

Girlfriends’ Weekend.

And it started with hiking on Mt. Hood. Then it headed to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

It hasn’t happened every year, and what started as an autumnal tradition has migrated to springtime.

It involves late nights, good food and lots of laughter. In fact, we’ve considered trademarking the hysterical laughter method of ab-tightening.

Why There?

The original point of these getaways was to offer a retreat from regular life with someone who accepted you at face value. It might be a time of therapy-by-venting or relaxation through escapism.

As for destinations, there wasn’t any rhyme or reason to the selection. Not even in the beginning.

In recent years, we’ve chose destinations centrally located that we could drive to. This keeps the cost down, although I’d wager we could find another discounted airfare to a city further afield…if we wanted to be flexible and let it happen more spur-of-the-moment.

Richland, Washington is no tourist destination. Not one I’d pay money to attend anyway.

But it happens to be nearly halfway between the two cities of our residence. And it has pretty decent weather most of the year.

The hope for sunshine is what made me reject her suggestion we relocate this year’s meeting to a place much closer to me. A place in the once-scenic (and now burn victimized) Columbia River Gorge.
She’s bringing her brochures and planning to convince me it’s a decent location for the next meet-up. And since I’ve never “bathed” in natural hot springs, she can probably talk me into it without too much trouble.

Same friend next year, who knows where? Same time? Possibly. We tend to be creatures of habit.

Have you ever had a girls’ getaway (or a guys’ getaway)? What did you do? What was its purpose?

The Ins and Outs of Being a Substitute Teacher

On this Monday morning, the door to the classroom is open. The teacher I’m replacing is at her desk gathering some last minute items for the field trip she’s chaperoning today. She doesn’t make eye contact when she says, “Are you my sub?” and hands me the sheet of paper with the lesson plans typed on it.

As I’m scanning it, she mentions that I might get asked to cover some other classes since she has two periods when she only has “teacher’s assistants” in the room. I’d like to ask about this, but I don’t. Instead I’m thinking, “This is going to be a long day.”

What Adds Hours

I’ve worked in education long enough to know that plenty of substitute teachers bring a thick novel and hope they’ll get uninterrupted reading time during their day. I’m not one of those.

Sure, I have my tablet, and there are always books to be read on one of my digital reader apps. Most of the time, I plan to use the planning period (at least) to work on whatever project I’m writing that day. Or I might whip out a blog post or two (like this one).

But for the most part, a day where students aren’t going to be engaging with me tends to be a L-O-N-G one. Here are some things I might see in sub plans that tell me this eight hours is going to feel like sixteen:

  • A movie (that will be played for three or four different classes)
  • Ongoing work on a project (like the essay in the sophomore language arts class today)
  • Silent reading of a text and a corresponding worksheet
  • Traveling to the computer lab to work on something
  • An online assignment (because many of the students will head off to a fun place in cyberspace and will conveniently ignore me when I try to redirect them)

This last one is what the seniors in honors language arts are doing on the day I’m penning this. They’re honors students, so they might be more on-task than the average class, but they’re seniors too. And it is the week before spring break.


Things You Wouldn’t Think You’d Do

Babysitting students while they supposedly work on an ongoing assignment is expected. Teachers don’t know what sort of substitute will be filling in for them (unless they request a specific one), and maybe the substitute won’t know the first thing out the subject matter.
Thus, I tried not to feel offended during this conversation today:

Me: “So should I expect some students will want me to check off this sheet before they begin writing?”
Teacher: “I wouldn’t worry about that.” Pause. “Unless you feel comfortable identifying themes.”
Me: Stunned into silence.

Hello? I have an English literature degree. And I’m familiar with Bradbury’s classic FAHRENHEIT 451. Are you serious right now?
But worse than that expectation that I wouldn’t “get” what sophomores are doing is the drill that will be held during second period. The vice-principal came in first thing to hand me the “procedures.”
I’ve already been on a fire drill at this school. But today there will be a LOCK DOWN drill. This is preparatory for a “live shooter” or “other threat” on campus.
So, when the announcement comes on, I’ll get to pull the blinds, switch of the lights and huddle under my desk with a class full of teenagers. All of them will have their phones out, and I’m supposed to keep them off those.

Because in the event of an actual lock down, those lights would be an open invitation to the threat that the room was filled with innocents. Not really a message we want to give out.

As the VP explains things to me (and I’m not a novice to this, so he really didn’t have to), he ends the conversation with, “It’s unfortunate that we even have to practice this.”

Unfortunate might be an understatement. This is the world we live in where people won’t even let kids learn in peace at school.

And then they decide to have a fire drill on the back side of sitting on the floor in the dark for six minutes. I’m sure you can guess how engaged those sophomores were when we came back to class 20 minutes later.


What Adds Interest

I didn’t want to end this post with a negative tone, so let’s talk about things that add interest to my day of substitute teaching. There are a few. It’s not always glorified babysitting (with a WAY better paycheck than I ever earned back in the day).

I’m a writer. I love reading. You can imagine what sort of things I’d find interesting when in the same room with teenagers. Things like:

  • Reading and discussing an article
  • Reading and discussing a short story with a specific purpose (like writing a paragraph on some literary device or element afterward)
  • Reading and discussing poetry
  • Watching a video that will spark a conversation that segues into an assignment
  • Brainstorming ideas for stories (a rare joy these days)
  • Class discussion when students actually participate

There are probably other things that have made the hours slide by in a middle or high school classroom. In the end, it boils down to student engagement and teacher-student interaction.

What things have you done at work lately that were unexpected? What makes the day drag on and on for you?

Transformation: Me

Transformation means a complete change. Are you sick of hearing about it yet? This is the third and final post in the series about my 2018 word of the year.

Whenever I choose a word, it might be meant to impact a certain area of my life. For example, when I chose to have an attitude of gratitude in 2016, that was mostly a mental transformation.
However, the memes I shared on social media also affected my author brand. My change of attitude helped me with my physical goals of reaching a healthy weight toward the lower end of my “target.”
However, I wasn’t intending to change from creepy caterpillar to winged butterfly. There will be no plastic surgery to alter my face and form. No mutations are being invoked at the cellular level.
So this means my personal metamorphosis has specific parameters.

Physical Transformation

After years of resolving to lose weight, I’ve given up on setting my goals in those terms.

Yes, I have an “ideal” weight in mind.

But this transformation is more about building muscle, endurance and all-around fitness levels.
Along with that, I’m juggling food choices until I land on something that will help me do what I’ve always done: eat what I want and maintain my weight.
In younger years, this meant working out a little longer or harder for a few days before or after a splurge (like Thanksgiving dinner with all that cornbread dressing and gravy).


However, my fifty-year-old body isn’t keen on cooperating with that. I thinks that doing the same workouts is a big waste of time, and it will greedily cling to every scrap of chocolate ingested. And place it inconveniently on my waistline.
Ugh.
So I may have my work cut out for me to morph into a butterfly in the physical realm.

Spiritual Metamorphosis

Last year knocked me down and kicked me repeatedly while I huddled in the fetal position protecting my head from the blows.

The biggest battlefield was in my spirit.

I’ve always prioritized my spiritual self. I learned long ago that when my spirit went hungry, it drained my emotions and physical strength. Eventually, I withered.
That’s where I ended up last year.
Now it’s time to cocoon that ugly caterpillar and rely on the Holy Ghost to transform her into something resembling a Christ-like individual.
One area I’ve lacked in years past: meditating on scripture. It will blow your mind to realize how much more often meditating on scripture is recommended over simply studying and learning it.


So why haven’t I focused on it before now?
Your guess is as good as mine, but that’s what I plan to do to fortify my spirit for the next big battle.

Writing Transformation

Yes, it might seem the website and branding should fall in this category, but I don’t see it that way. Those are about my CAREER as a writer.
I’m changing my focus in writing. In turn, the website and branding need to reflect that.
This year my writing is going to focus on Christian and inspirational work. Yes, I have a sweet romance coming out this summer, but I wrote that story in 2017. I hope to release a sweet romance novel, as well, but it’s a compilation of the novella series I penned from 2015 through 2017.


Every fiction story I write this year will have a Christian worldview. They will be intended for readers of Christian fiction (specifically romance, but my romances are atypical).
I hope these readers will enjoy my writing style enough to purchase my sweet romances. They will certainly be candidates for picking up Reflections from a Pondering Heart or either of my Bible studies.
I am changing from a general market romance author to a primarily Christian author. I hope that will include women’s fiction and fantasy as some point in the future, but the metamorphosis has to start small.
What area is most difficult for you to transform?
If you missed my earlier posts, you can read about my website transformation and the transformation of my brand and platform by clicking on the appropriate highlighted word.

For more information about all my releases, jump on board for Hero Delivery and snap up some free fiction as a “thank you” for signing up.

Transformation: Genre Branding & Platform

It’s hard to make a change when you don’t have consistency. Or at least that’s what I told myself about my author brand and platform. And then came 2018 and its Word:

The truth is, I’ve been walking around rather apologetically since I started this professional author gig. Well, except for a few months around the time of this release:

“What do you write?” People would ask.
“All sorts of things.” And then my eyes would dart to the side. “Most of my published stuff is romance, but I have one YA Fantasy and a women’s fiction novel.”
I’m guilty. I was ashamed to admit that I wrote romance. Many of my author friends are angry and revolted as they read this.

Because romance writing isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Is it what I “dreamed” of writing? Nope.
But it IS what I’ve been able to market to publishers, and where most of my readers come from.
This is the year I embrace that identity. With one caveat, of course.

My Brand: Before

I’m not even sure I had a brand before this. Check out the things I used for continuity across every social media platform.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you saw those things, what would you guess I wrote?

What? It doesn’t scream any genre at you?

That would be because I wrote so many genres I feared embracing anything that might look distinctively romance or fantasy or nonfiction or Christian.
Is it any wonder I haven’t been able to build an audience? No one can figure out what it is I’m selling here.

My Brand: After

 
One thing I’ve heard over and over is: “As an author, YOU are your brand.”
But what does that really mean? What does that LOOK like in logos and colors and fonts?
I am a person who loves to read many genres and has too many ideas to contain in a single writing category. So do I brand multiple personalities? How?
This is what I learned from a quick quiz from Kaye Putnam and her Brand Personality Quiz:
1. I have elements of several personalities in my brand
2. The ones that appeal to me most are Hero and Magician
3. To settle on ONE or know how to properly combine these, I needed to discover what I want my ideal clients (readers) to FEEL
Light bulb moment.
I knew the answer to this. So I took some time considering it more deeply.
I want my readers to feel understood and hopeful and encouraged. I want them to be empowered to chase (and capture) their own dreams.
Yes, I want to offer them escape, but more than that I wanted them to see themselves between the pages and know they are not alone. Someone relates to how they’re feeling and what their lives are throwing at them right now.
Then I outlined all of that and shipped it off to a designer. Perry Elisabeth is a freelancer I met through a Facebook Group. I’d been admiring her cover designs for months and I’d succumbed to the magnetism of her WriteMind Planner.
And this is what she came up with.



There was a transformation here, right? I can build a platform with this distinctive symbol.
Based on that, what genre would you guess I wrote?

And if you say “romance” or “women’s fiction” I won’t cringe. Because in 2018 I’m going to publish three (or more) Christian romances with women’s fiction themes and motifs.
More on that later.
What do you think of the new look? What/how does it make you feel?

Another New Year: Another New Word

It’s January. Again. Another new year. And around here that means a new theme or focus word.
This year’s word blindsided me shortly after we returned from our Branson vacation. I kept seeing a form of this word and as I was working through the ramblings from National Novel Writing Month that became some of December’s blog posts, I was struck by it.
Transform. Transforming. Transformation.
But that sounded too much like Transformers (”more than meets the eye”) so I immediately put my wordy nerd brain into thesaurus mode.
What did I come up with?

Was 2017 Dauntless?

Maybe you forgot that I’d chosen to be dauntless in 2017.


Just choosing the word was like a double-dog-dare to the enemy of the soul.
No matter how much I tried, I could never find the mindset of fearlessness I needed to plow ahead.
Instead, troubles, trials, and transitions bombarded me until I sat down in a heap with my arms over my head.
Hardly the image of a dauntless author chasing the publishing contract she KNEW she would get in 2017.
All of that makes me leery of choosing something daunting again for this year.

Metamorphosis Defined

When I think of metamorphosis, I think of the change of a furry caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly. That’s probably why you’ll see so many butterflies in the next few months as I’m inundating myself with this word.
But, aside from the biological definition, what is a metamorphosis? Dictionary.com says it’s “a complete change of form, structure, or substance, as transformation by magic; any complete change in appearance, character, circumstances, etc.”
So what does that mean for me? Am I changing from human into something else? I don’t think so. And the only magic that will be used is the grace of God.
I’m hoping the make changes in a few areas of my life, though. The biggest one is right here in my writing world.
Maybe you’ve already noticed the difference in my website. I hope you like the changes, but they aren’t done. I’m working on making it “look” and “feel” more like me.
The other thing is that this year I will focus my writing—almost exclusively—on Christian markets. This is a huge change for me, and it makes me more than a tad nervous.
The biggest motivator of this change is the Kindle Worlds contracts. I have a minimum of three more novellas for the First Street Church in the works for 2018.
I’m still going to do at least two projects with my independent publisher—romances. They know I’m changing my focus, and they’re supportive of my decisions. It’s one of the things that I like the best about them.

How it will look in my Life

My metamorphosis isn’t going to take me from a size six to a size zero. Or in the other direction to a size sixteen.
I’m planning on being disciplined in my exercise and eating until I reach the optimal weight for my height and age, but it’s hardly going to look like a transformation.
No butterfly wings for this fluffy girl.
Since my focus in writing is becoming more spiritual, the area I expect to morph into something mega is in my spirit. I’ve got a planner that helps me align my thinking along these lines.
The two nonfiction projects I’m planning for this year are both Bible-based. It’s time I powered through the grief handbook once and for all. So that’s a priority for this year.
And I didn’t write a new study book in 2017. That’s the other project I’m requiring of myself. I’ve got tons of ideas (of course) but I need to narrow them into a single topic that can be dissected over ten to twelve lessons.
Your ideas are welcome, as always.
Do you choose a theme or word of the year? What was your 2017 word? What will you focus on this year.

What’s in Your Garage?

My husband likes buying new cars. At least, it seems like he does because he’s doing it every few years—four years being the maximum he can endure without car shopping. So our garage sees plenty of inhabitants.

Me? I don’t like the car buying process.

I mean, it’s fun to see the pretty colors and drive the sporty models. The new car aroma is intoxicating in its own way.

But car salesmen…even the good ones…talk too much and listen too little.

Even walking in with “cash” didn’t make the process more speedy.

It’s like they have to play their little “numbers” game. No matter what.

And the truth is, I’m not a huge fan of new gadgetry, and that includes new vehicles. I learn the ins and outs of my rig, and it becomes a member of my extended family.

If I had my way, I’d still be driving my 1998 Durango. I adored that guy (Shari’s Tough Machine) but when gas prices sky-rocketed and my sons started driving their own vehicles rather than riding with us, my husband decided I needed something ….more economical? In truth, I’m rather vague on this point.

Anyway, he likes new and shiny. I’m not a fan of monthly payments. Usually we’re at an impasse.

Or he gets a new job one week and purchases a Mustang the next. Because…why not?

And if I say “I want a…” then he sees it as his mission in life to get that for me.

Five years ago, it was an Audi Q5. At the time, they were behind on the technology of syncing all your devices with your car and using it as a WiFi hot spot. But, man did that baby handle like a sports car. Acceleration…yep. Cornering at speed…oh, yeah.

*Grin stretches off her face*

But it was out of the price range. And I decided at that time, I would get a solid book contract with a $50,000 advance and pay cash for the amazing driving machine.

And boy did that motivate me to produce novels at the rate of four per year.

Not that I sold a single one of them. In fact, only one per year met the advanced rewriting, revising and editing stages so it could be pitched to agents and publishers.

But…there was a carrot dangling. And it was shiny…and hugged the road like a Porsche 911 (exact words the salesman used on my first test drive).

And now it’s in my garage. There’s a monthly payment attached.

And, no, I don’t have a book contract that paid a sizable advance. In fact, none of my book contracts (yes, I have many) includes advance payment. Which is fine. Because now that I know how that works, I’d rather wait until I’m a best-selling author before anyone bets on me that way.

But what’s going to motivate me to keep writing novels at a break-neck pace now that the sporty SUV is hanging out on the other side of my office wall? Maybe the idea of paying the loan of early.

It doesn’t have the same compulsive sound to it.

What’s in your garage? A car? Boxes? A crafting area?

LA LA LAND of Dreams

In my experience, watching award-winning films is a mixed bag. Some are masterpieces in every way and others leave a person shaking their head (UNFORGIVEN). So I had low expectations when I viewed LA LA LAND.

This is not a review of the movie. It’s a reflection of underlying themes in any work of art.

Appreciation of art is utterly subjective. I will throw my hands up at cubist paintings while another person is deeply moved. I’ll see paint splatters and psych evaluation ink dot images in some impressionistic works while others can easily envision what the artist intended.

So if I’ve already offended you because you loved UNFORGIVEN or hated AMADEUS (an old Academy winner that I especially enjoyed), I apologize. Not for my opinion but that you found it offensive because it was not offered up for that purpose.

The Story

This is a story about a girl who wants to be an actress and a boy who is an accomplished musician but has bottomed-out while seeking his dream (of owning a jazz club).

Girl meets boy when she hears him playing the piano at a restaurant when she’s walking by. (I loved that the tune of that song underwrote most of the music for the score. In my opinion, this is composition at its finest.) He’s just been fired for not sticking to the manager’s set list, so he blows by her with hardly a glance.

Later they meet up at a party and it’s the “boy and girl despise each other when they meet” trope in action. Neither of them are looking for love or a relationship and that’s when it blindsides you.

They support each other’s art, but they come to a crossroads where the choice seems to be “career/dream” or “relationship.” He has chosen a career and it isn’t fulfilling him, and her dream lets her down. They part with the assurance “I’ll always love you.”

Five years later, a “chance” meeting sends them spiraling down the path of  “what if.” And while it appears they have both “arrived” at their dream, neither of them appears happy.

My Takeaway

Dreams can only take you so far.

If you’ve followed me long, you know I’m a middle-aged woman who has only been pursuing her dreams for seven years, and single-mindedly for four years. I am a proponent for never giving up on dreams.

However, I wouldn’t give up my family or my husband if it meant that I had every dream I’ve imagined (best sellers, movie adaptations, million-dollar contracts, etc.)

To me, that is what happened in the movie. Especially for Sebastian. Mia moved on and found another man, had a daughter, although her reaction when she heard him play tells me it wasn’t all golden for her either.

In the “what if” scenario, both of them ended up in the same place–dreams fulfilled–but they were together.

The theme here was about choices and how one can alter everything–for better or worse.

A dream might have a price, but some prices are too high to pay. Each person must decide what the “upper limit” will be for them. Sadly, we might not realize how much we’ve lost until it’s too late to recover it.

A feeling of melancholy accompanied the end of this film. The dreams didn’t seem to bring as much joy to Mia and Seb as their time together. It was a reminder to count the cost, appreciate what you have and live each moment.

Have you seen LA LA LAND? What theme stood out to you? What emotion did the film leave with you?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.